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Pope John Paul II, John XXIII declared saints

By Agencies

Pope Francis on Sunday, April 27 proclaimed John Paul II and John XXIII the Catholic Church’s newest saints at a festive ceremony joined by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims for two pontiffs who helped shape 20th-century history.

In his homily, Francis praised them as «men of courage» who worked «in renewing and updating the Church».

«They were priests, bishops and popes of the 20th century. They lived through the tragic events of that century but they were not overwhelmed by them.

«For them, God was more powerful,» he said.

By sainting them together, Francis was appealing to «rival camps within the Catholic fold who see John XXIII and John Paul II as their heroes», said US-based Vatican expert John Allen from the Boston Globe.

Experts also noted that the move gives Francis a stronger unifying role and say it was a bold step towards stamping his authority over the Vatican.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who last year became the first pontiff to resign since the Middle Ages, made a rare public appearance in his white papal cassock.

Francis embraced him warmly at the ceremony and co-celebrated the mass with the 87-year-old Benedict and hundreds of bishops and cardinals — the first time that two living popes have ever said mass together.

It was also the first time that two Catholic Church leaders were being declared saints on the same day.

The Vatican said 800,000 people followed the event dubbed «four-pope day», including 500,000 in and around St Peter’s Square.

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